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the web of life in southern Africa

Armoracia rusticana (Horseradish)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid II > Order: Brassicales > Family: Brassicaceae > Genus: Armoracia

Horseradish is a pungent herb with leaves that are used in salads and sandwiches, and roots that are used for sauces that are added to meat. It is also used for various medical complaints. It is a sterile cultigen thought to have originated in southern Russia and Eastern Ukraine. It has become naturalised in Europe, North America and New Zealand, where it can be found growing along roadsides. Cultivation dates back only to about Roman and Greek times, about 2000 years ago. 


  • Culinary
    • Leaves. Used in salads and sandwiches
    • Roots (grated). 
      • Used alone, or in combination with apple, as a condiment for fish.
      • Made into a sauce with vinegar and cream that is used with roast beef, cold chicken or hard-boiled eggs
      • In Eastern Europe, used as a condiment in combination with beets.
  •  Medicinal. Evidently controls bacterial infection, lowers fever by increasing perspiration, acts as a diuretic, and stimulates circulation.
    • Internal. Excess use can lead to vomiting or the development of an alergic response. Claimed as a treatment for:
      • general debility;
      • arthritis (inflamation of joints causing pain);
      • gout (inflamation and swelling of joints caused by an excess of uric acid in the blood that deposits as urates in the joints);
      • ischiadica (= sciatica) (spasms of the ischiadic [= sciatic] nerve, causing pain down the back of the leg) ;
      • respiratory infections;
      • urinary infections; and
      • fevers where one gets cold.
    • External. Applied as a poultice for:
      • infected wounds;
      • pleurisy (inflammation of the pleura which are the membranes that enclose the pleural cavity which surrounds the lungs)
      • arthritis; and
      • pericarditis (inflammation of the pericardium, which is the membrane covering the heart).


  • Brown, D. 2002. The Royal Horticultural Society New Encyclopedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London.

  • Phillips, R. & Rix, M. 1993. Vegetables. Pan Books, London.

Text by Hamish Robertson